Across the Midwest, many anglers are putting their open water fishing gear away. Some are going hunting, others are getting ready to go ice fishing. However, there are some, probably more than you would think, that look forward to this time of year for open water fishing. They know that right now, in rivers throughout the region, there are lots of opportunities to catch walleyes. In fact, a very knowledgeable river angler recently told me that the period between November 15 and December 15 is his favorite time to catch walleyes. Here are some tips for getting in on this action.
Be prepared for any weather. It can be 20 degrees or 70 degrees. If you’re cold, you’re not going to enjoy being out there no matter how good the fish are biting. Start out dressed for cold conditions; you can always take clothes off, but you can’t put on clothes you don’t have. No matter the forecast, I always wear long underwear. I also always take my Cabela’s Outfitter fleece parka. This parka is so warm and comfortable, I an never without it.
Next, tie some rigs in advance. If you have a couple of rod and reel set-ups, tie a jig on one and a three-way rig on another. Even though you may need to change when you get there to match the water conditions, it’s easier to tie rigs the night before in the house where it’s warm.
Most days on the river this time of year will be very pleasant, made even more pleasant by walleyes and sauger that want to eat. Different areas will produce; sand flats, wingdams, mid-river holes, and current breaks will all hold fish. You need to keep moving around until you find the areas that have the most biters.
Slurp! Jigs tipped with three- or four-inch Impulse Smelt or Paddle Minnows will be good, as will Fire-Ball jigs tipped with live minnows. Soft bait is becoming more and more popular every year because it flat out catches more fish, but there are days when the fish show a preference for minnows.
When the fish are in the deeper areas, it works well to hover directly over them and hold the bait right in their face. These fish don’t want to chase bait, but if it is wiggling right there on their nose, they’re going to eat it.
There will be times when you’ll see a flurry of activity early or late in the day, but most of the time the best bite will be from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
There are lots of rivers, big and small, across the Midwest that hold walleyes and sauger. Most of them can be fished from a boat or from the shore. You’ll have the opportunity to catch eaters and trophies. I bet you can think of a river not too far away from where you live that has walleyes in it. Now would be a great time to go there and see if you can catch a few.